Monash University researchers are working on a vaccine that could completely cure asthma brought on by house dust mite allergies.
If successful, the vaccine would have the potential to cure sufferers in two to three doses.
Allergies to house dust mites is a leading cause of asthma and the respiratory condition affects more than 2 million Australians and costs more than $600 million in health expenditure each year.
Currently, people allergic to house dust mites must continually clean their environments to remove the microscopic creatures from soft furnishings to avoid an allergic attack. Medications can bring relief for some sufferers, but must be taken regularly. Others respond less well to medications.
Professor El Meeusen, who is working with Professor Robyn O'Hehir, both from the Faculty of Medicine, Nursing and Health Services, believes that a vaccine for people with house dust mite allergies will have a range of health and financial benefits for patients and the government.
"We are aiming to develop a vaccine that can be completely delivered in two to three doses. That means a person suffering from a house dust mite allergy will be able to breathe easily from their final dose," Professor Meeusen said.
"Allergies cost the Australian economy approximately seven billion dollars every year. The potential reduction in cost to the patient and to the government by eradicating a common allergy such as this is immense."
Professor O'Hehir has also made significant gains in developing a vaccine for people with peanut allergies. Currently there is no specific treatment for peanut allergy with avoidance and emergency treatment of anaphylaxis with adrenaline as the only options. Allergen immunotherapy is available for selected patients with house dust mite allergy but typically injections need to be given regularly for three to five years.
"This method of immunisation is quite precarious, because modern medicine still isn't entirely sure how it really works," Professor Meeusen said.